Well we've got 26 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the Chicago White Sox.
Lineup: And we start off with the weakest link of the team! Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin are studly hitters, and Paul Konerko might have a little something left in the bat, and...umm...well, maybe Juan Pierre can repeat what he did last year? You know, the first time he's been worth 2 WAR since 2006. That year. Seriously, though. When your team is relying on Mark Teahen and A.J. Pierzynski to bring some stick to the middle of the lineup, you're in deep trouble. And that's not to mention the fact that Andruw Jones' corpse is going to split time at DH with Mark Kotsay, whom we'd call a corpse if he hadn't decayed into a flat-out skeleton, like, two years ago. If they would just have held onto Josh Fields, moved Beckham to short, Alexei Ramirez to center, and put Brent Lillibridge at second, they could've been onto something...but instead we're looking at a decidedly-below average lineup that doesn't figure to contribute much in the field, either. And let's not forget that they're paying Alex Rios enough money to drown a hippo to hit, like, .200.
Rotation: Ah, but here's where things get good. This team can really pitch, boasting Jake Peavy and Mark Buerhle at the top of a rotation that also includes above-average hurlers John Danks and Gavin Floyd. The fifth spot looks to be up for grabs, but if Daniel Hudson can step up and Freddy Garcia can maybe have a little bit left in the tank, they should be solid all the way through the rotation. We're a bit concerned about Peavy; he's coming off the ankle injury from last season, has questionable mechanics, and a bit of a flyball tendency, but even with some regression from last season, he should still be a frontline guy for the Sox.
Bullpen: There are some question marks here, to be sure, but also some upside. Bobby Jenks had a bit of a down season last year, as his FIP and ERA both went up by over a full run, but he's shown an ability to get strikeouts like he did in his 100-mph throwing past. J.J. Putz is only a few seasons removed from being one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, but he has struggled with injuries in that interim, and so is far from a sure thing. Matt Thornton took a big step forward, though, harnessing his extremely powerful stuff and racking up 87 strikeouts in 72 innings, a performance that has established him as a premier power lefty. Scott Linebrink, though, remains a disaster of a signing, and unless someone like Tony Pena shows that they can handle major innings, Linebrink is going to absorb way more frames than he should.
Overall: The White Sox are a team with a definite strength in their pitching. Unfortunately, even in the weak AL Central, that's probably not enough to win a division title. We fully expect them to compete - the pitching is too good for them not to, and if Carlos Quentin can stay healthy, they've got at least two potent bats - but ultimately there's just not enough here right now to play significant October baseball. But, hey, Ozzie Guillen on Twitter is really awesome.
Predicted Record: 81-81, 3rd place in AL Central.
Beer: We're tempted to pick Old Style for the irony, but we'll go with Goose Island Honker's Ale. A wonderfully tasty beer from the Windy City, Honker's Ale is underappreciated - like the Sox - but has some real redeeming qualities (viz a good rotation and a 250 lb. closer. Because everyone loves fat baseball players).